With an aggressive Charter Communications takeover looming over Time Warner Cable, Comcast executives felt like they had only one chance if they wanted to buy the LA and NYC systems they didn’t already own, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said at this morning’s Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “Our judgment was the company was going to be sold and if we wanted New York and Los Angeles, it was now or never,” Roberts said. The company was trying to move beyond a persistent perception of it as a “regional cable provider” that hampered deals with potential partners such as Reed Hastings of Netflix in years past. Even with the big 2010 acquisition of NBCUniversal still being digested, the company needed to move fast with its $45.2 billion offer for TWC, which is still under regulatory review. Comcast also signed a $20 billion side deal to sell or swap out 3.9 million of the subscribers with Charter to further concentrate operations in big cities and keep below a self-imposed limit of 30 percent of the U.S. cable TV market. That deal is contingent on the main acquisition going through.
Related: CEO Brian Roberts Says X1 Rollout Is Comcast’s Top Priority For 2014
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The long-gestating follow-up to cult 2001 feature comedy Wet Hot American Summer finally might come together in the form of a series for Netflix. The streaming service is in talks with the film’s co-writer/director David Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter, who have been the driving force behind reviving the project, set at a summer camp. Sources stress that the conversations are ongoing and could fall apart, but there is will on both sides to make this happen. According to Variety, which first reported the talks, the series would try to reunite many of the original cast members. The film, which failed at the box office before achieving cult status, starred then-up-and-comer Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, Molly Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce and Michael Ian Black. Wain and Showalter had publicly discussed their ideas for a Wet Hot American Summer prequel with the original cast members playing teenage versions of the characters. If the Wet Hot American Summer series comes together, it is expected to employ the model used by Netflix to revive another comedy cult, the 2003-06 Fox series Arrested Development, which was able to reassemble its entire original cast.
Heading into Cannes, the refrain was roundly the same as the one we heard going into the last big market, February’s EFM in Berlin. Whether it be from sales people, buyers or producers both foreign and domestic, there was a lament that the big projects had failed to materialize and that despite hopes to the contrary, this would be a very soft sojourn on the Croisette. One buyer called the situation a “catastrophe.” It is simply harder to pull together exciting packages, execs said, as talent attachments take longer and numbers are harder to hit. Still, if international dealmaking was in line with expectations, there was a jolt in domestic deals from the get-go. On the eve of the market, Paramount spent a record $20M on Story Of Your Life. The deal for the Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi pic starring Amy Adams was brokered by Lava Bear’s David Linde with WME Global’s Graham Taylor and FilmNation’s Glen Basner. Basner was also in the middle of The Weinstein Co’s landmark $7M Berlin deal for The Imitation Game. That acquisition was the real news out of Berlin, but it did not have a knock-on effect of jump-starting what ended up to be a pretty tepid EFM.
On the contrary, the sunny skies in Cannes, after two years of non-stop downpours, were matched by a solid … Read More »
Netflix has officially announced its intention to significantly expand in Europe. The move had been expected, and will be welcome news to international sales folk here in Cannes who roundly told me before the market that they were anxious for services like Netflix to penetrate further. The streaming service did not provide a time frame, but said it will move into Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Luxembourg later this year. Netflix is already in the UK and this expansion will notably move it into Germany which has the world’s fourth biggest population of broadband users. However, Enders Analysis’ Ian Maude told the BBC this morning, “Germany potentially could be quite a difficult market as it has low pay-TV penetration and seemingly low willingness to pay.” Meanwhile, in France Netflix has been having conversations with the government and the local industry for months on how it will enter the market. Its European base will be in Luxembourg which could help it skirt French regulations that require TV providers to invest heavily in local production. Moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery in part due to a complex film-windows chronology that prohibits movies from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. There is no such protection for TV series, but Netflix’s House Of Cards already airs on local pay-TV leader Canal Plus, which would see the service’s arrival as competition. Netflix said … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Chloe Sevigny and Steven Pasquale have been tapped for recurring roles on Netflix’s untitled psychological thriller drama from Sony Pictures TV. Written and executive produced by Damages creators Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler (KZK), the 13-episode series is set in the Florida Keys and centers on a close-knit family of four adult siblings (Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz) whose secrets and scars are revealed when their black sheep brother (Mendelsohn) returns home. Sevigny plays Chelsea, who has a romantic past with Mendelsohn’s character and whose brother Eric (Jamie McShane), out on parole, is living with her in their shack of a home. Pasquale plays a potential romantic interest for Cardellini’s character. Sevigny, repped by WME and Brillstein Entertainment, just wrapped Whit Stillman’s Amazon pilot The Cosmopolitans. Pasquale, repped by ICM Partners and Emily Gerson Saines, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for The Bridges Of Madison County.
The streaming company probably averages 1.8B viewing hours per month domestically which is “within striking distance of the broadcast networks,” BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield says today based on some new data from Netflix and his own back-of-the-envelope calculations. He starts with Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt’s disclosure yesterday that Netflix transmitted 6.5B hours of content globally in Q1. That looks to be up 18% vs last year, Greenfield says. Here’s how he gets to the domestic viewing hours estimate: The analyst figures that Netflix’s 34.55 domestic streaming subs in Q1 accounted for 82% of total viewing (down from 88% a year ago), or 5.33B hours. That’s 1.8B hours per month, and 103 minutes per sub per day. Greenfield doesn’t break out comparable figures for the Big Four networks, but last year he said that in Q1 2013 CBS had 3.3B viewing hours per month followed by ABC at 2.6B, NBC at 2.3B and Fox at 1.9B. Is the estimate worth taking seriously? I would — Greenfield’s sharp on these kinds of estimates. But keep in mind that he’s also one of the company’s most prominent supporters on Wall Street (he downgraded to “hold” in September only because the stock price had become too rich) and one of two analysts who Netflix has entrusted to raise and moderate questions at its quarterly earnings presentations.
BAFTA handed out its TV Awards in London this evening with ITV drama Broadchurch scoring a trifecta of prizes. The series, which is heading into production on its second season in the UK and is being remade in the U.S. as Gracepoint, won best drama, best actress for Olivia Colman and best supporting actor for David Bradley. The wins marked Colman’s third BAFTA and Bradley’s first. Colman’s previous nods were for comedy Twenty Twelve and drama Accused. Netflix had its first ever BAFTA win with Breaking Bad voted Best International series. Netflix is the series broadcaster in the UK where BAFTA late last year said it was updating its rules to include web-based broadcasters to be eligible for TV awards. Channel 4 drama Southcliffe and the same network’s comedy The IT Crowd led the overall nominations going in with four nods apiece. Southcliffe‘s Sean Harris was voted best actor in a drama and The IT Crowd‘s Katherine Parkinson and Richard Ayoade took the top comedy acting prizes. Best Situation Comedy honors went to BBC Three’s Him & Her: The Wedding. Supporting Actress winner was Sarah Lancashire in the BBC’s Last Tango In Halifax. Gogglebox, Channel 4′s reality show that watches people as they watch television, was voted tops in reality. Graham Norton hosted the ceremony at London’s Theatre Royal where presenters included Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy, Jeremy Piven, Martin Freeman, Naomi Campbell, Sam Neill and Sheridan Smith. A full list of winners follows: Read More »
New customers have to pay $8.99 a month, a $1 increase needed “to continue adding more movies and TV shows,” the company says in an email to subscribers today. But existing members paying $7.99 can relax: “As a thank you for being a member of Netflix already, we guarantee that your plan and price will not change for two years.” That’s consistent with CEO Reed Hasting’s comment to investors last month that current customers could keep the pricing “for a generous time period.” Netflix learned the hard way that it’s dangerous to mess with consumer rates. The company infuriated subscribers in 2011 when it abandoned its $9.99 a month price for streaming and DVD-by-mail rentals, requiring those who wanted to continue both services to pay separate fees that totaled $15.98. The stock plummeted, at one point falling nearly 80% from its peak, and Hastings apologized for leaving the impression that the company “lacked respect and humility.” He added that he “should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices.”
Netflix plans to debut three original documentaries over the next few months. First up is The Battered Bastards Of Baseball. It chronicles how in 1973 Bonanza actor Bing Russell formed what at the time was America’s sole independent baseball team. Seen as a real-life version of the Bad News Bears, the Mavericks lasted three years before they were pushed out of Portland by the return of the major-league-backed Portland Beavers. The pic was co-directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way, produced by Juliana Lembi, exec produced by Nancy Schafer and includes cast members Kurt Russell (Bing Russell’s son) and Todd Fields. It’s set to premiere July 11 on Netflix. Also on the slate is Mission Blue. It tells the story of legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, environmentalist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and her impassioned campaign to save the world’s oceans from modern threats like climate change, overfishing and toxic waste. It premieres on August 15. In addition, E-Team, from Katy Chevigny (Deadline, Election Day) and Ross Kauffman (Born Into Brothels), follows the high-stakes investigative work of four fiercely intrepid human rights workers, offering a rare look at their lives at home and dramatic work in the field. It’s slated for a fall debut. Meanwhile, previously announced Print The Legend also is slated to premiere exclusively later this year on Netflix. The SXSW award-winning docu goes behind-the-scenes of the top American 3D printing brands as they fight for … Read More »
Orange Is The New Black will return for a third season, its writers said via Twitter today. The show’s co-star Laura Prepon also confirmed the news via her Instagram feed (see below). The unofficially official word comes a month before Season 2 premieres on Netflix on June 6 with all 13 episodes available at launch. The Jenji Kohan-created prison dramedy stars Taylor Schilling, Jason Biggs, Prepon and Kate Mulgrew. It is competing in the comedy Emmy category this season after being submitted as a drama (and largely shut out) at the Golden Globes. It has had better luck elsewhere though, earning a Peabody Award and over the weekend winning Outstanding Comedy at the GLAAD Media Awards.
Related: Hot TV Trailer: ‘Orange Is The New Black’
EXCLUSIVE: The Help helmer Tate Taylor will make his TV directing debut with the Netflix half-hour comedy Grace & Frankie toplined by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The 13-episode series, created by Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris (Sullivan & Son) and executive produced by Paula Weinstein through Skydance Prods, centers on longtime nemeses Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin), who are facing the last chapter of their lives. When their husbands announce they are in love with each other and plan to get married, the women find their lives both turned upside down and, to their dismay, permanently intertwined. Taylor also will serve as an executive producer on the series alongside Kauffman, Morris, Weinstein, Fonda, Tomlin as well as Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross. Taylor, repped by CAA and Lichter Grossman, recently wrapped Get On Up, Universal’s Chadwick Boseman-starring biopic of James Brown. He is attached to direct the feature about the rise of Tupperware that has Sandra Bullock circling to play Brownie Wise.
Netflix and Verizon confirm to those who call today that they have an agreement, but offer no details. Netflix says it hopes the terms “will improve performance for our joint customers over the coming months.” That suggests how much things have changed since February when Netflix cut a similar agreement with Comcast. They initially described the terms in a press release as “mutually beneficial,” but later Netflix decried it as an “arbitrary tax” — and a reason for it to oppose Comcast’s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told analysts last week that “we don’t think we should have to” pay for a superior connection to an Internet service provider. “It started off with a very small fee and then escalated into this blackout type model that has been a real problem for the industry and for consumers. So we are trying to avoid that by seeing if we can move everyone to no-fee interconnect.” Netflix says that in March Verizon FiOS speeds averaged 1.91 Mbps, down from 1.1 Mbps in November.
In the end, they struck a tax credit deal that probably would have made Frank Underwood proud. Today Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Of Cards producers Media Rights Capital announced they have found a way to keep the Netflix series in the state for its upcoming third season. “Spoiler alert: we’re going to keep the 3700 jobs and more than 100 million dollars of economic activity and investment that House Of Cards generates right here in Maryland,” O’Malley said. “Media Rights Capital has been a great supporter of the people and entertainment community in Maryland and we couldn’t be happier to continue our partnership.” Despite some ups and downs the past few months that saw production held up, the Kevin Spacey-starring series will now get $11.5 million this year for production via the 2014 Film Production Tax Credit program and a General Assembly authorization of $7.5 million in grants in the 2015 budget. That cobbled together figure is an increase from what HoC had gotten for a single season before. MRC, which had planned to start shooting the third season of the D.C.-set drama in early spring, received about $26M in Maryland tax credits for its first two season, according to reports.
With Season 3 expected to start production later this year, today’s new agreement comes just days after Netflix’s Ted Sarandos told Wall Street analysts that all sides were engaged in “ongoing negotiations” to keep the show in … Read More »
Netflix has set August 1 for the premiere of the six-episode final installment of The Killing, and A&E has slotted Monday, June 2 (10 PM) for the third-season premiere of Longmire. The Killing stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman will return for the final chapter of the series, which was cancelled by AMC in 2012, then resurrected with a third-season order. It staged yet another comeback after being canceled by the network again in September. It was then picked up by Netflix for the final installment. Longmire, A&E’s No. 1 original drama series of all time in total viewers, will return for Season 3 with star Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, along with Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman and Adam Bartley.
The 13-episode comedy series from director Gaz Alazraki and creator Mike Lam is set in the world of professional futbol. The untitled project, slated to premiere in 2015 on Netflix, centers on a family feud among heirs of a soccer club after the owner’s death. Luis Gerardo Mendez stars in the series, which will be shot entirely in Mexico and feature a cast from throughout Latin America. The project reunites Alazraki and Mendez, who worked on the Mexican box office hit Nosotros los Nobles (We Are The Nobles). Mendez starred in the pic and Alazraki directed.
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Some analysts say it could as investors lifted the value of Time Warner shares by 1.8% and drove Netflix down 5% and Amazon down 1.5% in afternoon trading. The agreement giving Amazon series from HBO including The Sopranos and Six Feet Under “is unparalleled for a subscription-only online streaming service from a quality perspective,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter says. He estimates that when the deal kicks in next month Amazon will be able to offer its customers 800 episodes of original content “compared to roughly 100 episodes of original content currently available on Netflix.” That could help Amazon to turn its Prime Instant Video offering into a stand-alone streaming service, separate from the current arrangement which — for $99 a year — also includes no-charge delivery for many retail items.
Related: HBO Signs Exclusive Licensing Deal With Amazon Prime
Pachter estimates that Amazon is paying “well above” $200M for HBO’s shows. Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner and Todd Juenger figure the payment to HBO to be “somewhere between $200M and over $400M…at a very high margin” for what they call “a significant addition to the Prime video library.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Mitch Hurwitz is staying in the Netflix fold with a multi-year deal, a rare pact with a writer-producer for the streaming giant. Under the multi-tier agreement, the Arrested Development creator will create and produce new original series for the Internet TV network through his banner The Hurwitz Company. Additionally, he will develop projects with other creators as a non-writing executive producer and will consult for Netflix on comedy series. Hurwitz first worked with Netflix on a new season of his Emmy-winning comedy series Arrested Development, which was released last year. “We are lucky to be in business with Mitch Hurwitz, a true genius with one of the most distinctive voices in comedy today,” said Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “Mitch’s inventive approach to Arrested Development — one of the top TV comedies of this generation — was ahead of its time, and we’re fortunate to have him on our team.”
Related: Netflix Says It May Raise Prices For New Customers
After winning six Emmys for its three-year run on Fox from 2003-06 — including three for Hurwitz, for best series and two for writing — Arrested Development‘s fourth season on Netflix earned three more Emmy nominations for the show, bringing the total to 25. Hurwitz executive produced and co-directed Season 4, and it was that collaboration with Netflix, which Hurwitz describes as being “the best professional experience of my life, even topping some of my favorite unprofessional experiences,” that led to the new deal. “It is incredibly inspiring to get to produce for Netflix, a company that not only doesn’t resist change but is leaps and bounds ahead of everyone in forging it,” Hurwitz said. “The fact that I’m also getting one month of their streaming right to my TV or Xbox free … well, it really takes the sting out of buying that Xbox.”
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The cabler has fired back at the DVD/streaming service, which earlier today slammed the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger as anti-competitive. In its response, Comcast said Netflix‘s stance “is based on inaccurate claims and arguments.” Here’s the company’s full reply from Jennifer Khoury, SVP Corporate & Digital Communications:
Netflix’s opposition to our Time Warner Cable transaction is based on inaccurate claims and arguments. There has been no company that has had a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast and we are the only ISP in the country that is currently legally bound by the FCC’s vacated net neutrality rules. In fact, one of the many benefits of our proposed transaction with Time Warner Cable will be the extension of Net Neutrality protections to millions of additional Americans. Here are the facts:
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Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told Wall Street analysts today that Maryland officials are engaged in “ongoing negotiations” to keep House Of Cards production in the state — even though lawmakers didn’t approve the tax breaks producer Media Rights Capital wants. “I would anticipate that these are overcome-able issues,” he says. The Netflix exec says that the state benefits from “staggering” benefits including “hundreds of jobs, and not just for actors.” The controversy has become a political volleyball, he said, though he was careful to note that Maryland “has been great for the show” and that “investors and fans are not at risk in any way.” MRC, which had planned to start shooting the third season of the D.C.-set drama in early spring, received about $26M in Maryland tax credits for its first two season, according to reports. The production company has been seeking a tax credit for Season 3 in line with Season 2′s $15 million. But that would require the Legislature to raise the total credits for all shows — including HBO’s Veep — to $18.5M from $15M. Those favoring the increase were unable to secure the votes they needed.
Related: John David Coles Joins ‘House Of Cards’ As Executive Producer